Govt plans to extend TPO powers

The government plans to extend The Pension Ombudsman’s (TPO) powers to include a function for early resolution before a formal determination.

In response to its TPO consultation, the government said that early resolution by TPO would “offer a route for resolving complaints that are less complex in nature” and that it would be quicker and more cost-effective a full determination.

It found that 76 per cent of consultant respondents were supportive of some form of early resolution function and that they recognised its benefits, including allowing parties to explore whether the dispute can be resolved by agreement before formal proceedings.

However, 20 per cent were less in favour, citing their key concern as early resolution taking the form of mediation would compromise a process where a dispute is determined on merits and awarding compensation.

Furthermore, concerns were highlighted over cases where a decision based on time rather than merit could have a disproportionate impact on the scheme, costs to trustees could increase and potential conflicts of interest if a case subsequently went down the formal determination route.

Despite the concerns, the government said it wanted to ensure the customer journey in the earlier stages of dispute resolution is not lost and that the services needed to evolve to “reflect the changing needs of members of the public”.

In the report, it continued: “The government believes that it is important to ensure that members of the public continue to be supported with their pensions both through the general guidance provided by Money and Pensions Service and also by the more tailored guidance on complaints through TPO.”

The consultation also found that the ‘majority’ of respondents were supportive of employers being able to bring a complaint on behalf of themselves to TPO.

Respondents said, however, that if TPO’s jurisdiction was widened then signposting and communication about the service should be made clearer.

The report added: “The government is keen to ensure that TPO’s service reflects not only its traditional role in the investigation and determination of complaints.”

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